Church buildings and furniture

Church architecture

Church buildings come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be traditional or modern. Differences in architecture, layout and style are important because they say something about the beliefs of the people who worship there.

Some common shapes for churches are:


‘Cruciform’ means cross-shaped. This design highlights the importance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Many older Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches are this shape. The building is always constructed so the top of the cross faces east.

Barn style

A barn style church is rectangular in shape, allowing the eye to be drawn to the front of the church where the pulpit is the focal point. This style is used by denominations who focus on the importance of preaching the word of God. Sometimes this shape is adapted to include a balcony at the rear of the church. This is the shape of many Presbyterian churches.


Some modern designs are built in the shape of a circle or oval. This shape can convey the idea that all people who worship in the building are of equal importance. Some modern designs of Roman Catholic churches have the altar in the centre of a circular building to show that the Mass is the central part of worship.

This features the pulpit at the head of the room with the communion table placed in front.

Barn style

Church furnishings

Church furniture (or furnishings) does not just mean the seats. It refers to the items of religious significance inside the church – such as the pulpit, reading desk and font. Furniture can vary from plain and simple to grand and ornate. Both the style and location of church furnishings reflect the beliefs of the people who worship there.